Rue Anemone Plant Profile

A spring-blooming flower perfect for shady woodland gardens

Rue Anemone clump on a forested area

 Charles Gibson / Getty Images

A delicate small spring perennial, rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) is well-suited to wildflower or woodland gardens. It'll also work well in shady borders or as a rock garden addition. This ephemeral plant blooms through the spring, before going dormant as the heat of the summer arrives.

An easy-to-grow and deer-resistant plant, it'll add interest in the early spring with its pretty little white flowers (which can sometimes be tinged with pink). Part of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), it grows in clusters and is spread via its thin tuberous root system.

Rue anemone is low-lying. Care should be taken when positioning it to ensure it isn't crowded out or overshadowed by taller plants.

This species is often confused with the wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) or the false rue anemone (Enemion biternatum), both of which grow during the spring in similar shady woodland habitats.

The rue anemone, however, has more petals on its flowers (usually around six to nine), and the three-lobed leaves are arranged in rounded, smooth whorls. The Wood Anemone has distinctly serrated, tooth-like foliage.

Botanical Name Thalictrum thalictroides (previously Anemonella thalictroides)
Common Name Rue anemone, rue-anemone
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size Up to 9 inches tall
Sun Exposure Partial shade
Soil Type Humus-rich and well-drained
Soil pH Tolerates a variety
Bloom Time March through to June
Flower Color White or pale pink
Hardiness Zones 4 to 8
Native Area Eastern North America
Close up of the white flowers of the Rue Anemone
This ephemeral flower adds a splash of early spring interest in gardens Anne Lindgren / Getty Images

How to Grow Rue Anemone

Even though they look delicate, provided they don't get too much direct sun or moisture, rue anemone will grow in abundance during the spring months.

These plants have a preference for loamy, well-drained soils that aren't too moist, and they should be kept out of direct sunlight. This isn't a species suited to being grown in city environments. It isn't tolerant of heavy urban pollution, and it may not flower successfully in built-up landscapes.

Light

Given rue anemone is native to woodland areas of eastern North America, it shouldn't be a surprise that it prefers a shady spot. During the spring, it'll thrive in partial shade, but when it goes dormant, full shade isn't usually a problem for this plant.

This makes this species a great choice for planting under deciduous tree canopies. In the spring, they'll receive the dappled light they prefer to grow in. When they go dormant during the summer, they'll still survive when the tree canopy is at its thickest and doesn't offer much light to the ground below.

Soil

Rue anemone prefers loose, humus-rich loamy or sandy soils, but they can cope in a variety of soil types. It does need to be well-drained, though, as they don't do well in standing water or overly moist conditions.

If they're planted under trees, the falling leaves and other rotting organic material will be of benefit. A thin layer of mulch can help to retain moisture in dry soils and will protect against harsh spring frosts.

Water

Rue anemone is fairly drought tolerant, but mesic conditions with a moderate moisture level will help to ensure the best longevity of their blooms during the spring. Because they can cope without too much moisture, this species won't need a lot of additional watering, especially if the area has a covering of mulch.

If the plant is too wet the tuber roots can begin to rot, and overly dry conditions can result in the plant going dormant earlier than normal.

Its drought tolerant trait is a benefit if the rue anemone is planted under large, well-established trees which absorb a lot of the available moisture into their sprawling root systems.

Temperature and Humidity

Rue anemones, despite their delicate-looking appearance, are surprisingly hardy. They can tolerate hard spring frosts and still produce blooms.

This plant isn't suited to being grown in areas that experience overly hot, sunny and humid conditions.

Propagating Rue Anemone

The rue anemone has clusters of small tuberous roots. These can be dug up and divided, or you can take cuttings from the roots to produce new plants.

It's best to divide the plants in early spring when they have just come out of dormancy.

Toxicity of Rue Anemone

All parts of the plant are mildly toxic if they're consumed when fresh. Fortunately, they'll only cause a problem if large quantities are accidentally ingested. It can result in vomiting, stomach upsets, and sores on the mouth.

Traditionally, Native Americans used the roots to treat gastrointestinal issues and for other medicinal purposes. These starchy tubers are safe to consume once cooked, and they're typically administered in a tea.

Growing From Seeds

Although it's easier to grow new plants from division or root cuttings, it's possible to grow rue anemone from seed.

Seed collection from your own plants is recommended in the early summer. They'll need to fully dry out before sowing and can benefit from a cold stratification period. It's a good idea to keep them moist and in the fridge for a few months before planting. You shouldn't expect any flowering the first season following germination.